Organising an edition of the FIFA World Cup, where over 1.2 million fans are making the trip to the venues, is a huge undertaking for any country, irrespective of its size or its population. For Qatar, it was an even bigger challenge, as a single stadium was built when the 2022 edition of the FIFA World Cup was awarded, while the infrastructure needed to be built from the ground up.
There were other huge challenges, in regards to security or the climate, with the competition being moved for the first time in November and December, to prevent the competition from being played in the summer, when the temperatures reach 45-47 degrees Celsius.
For everything to work out, for the huge flows of fans to get the best experience in the competition, Qatar has set up a tech hub that uses artificial intelligence to keep an eye on the spectators, predict crowd swells and even control stadium temperature.
Aspire Command and Control centre is the technical hub for the tournament, centralising all the operations for the eight stadiums thanks to the connected stadiums’ platform. It is a unique project for an event as complex as the FIFA World Cup is and only made possible thanks to the compact nature of host country Qatar and the relatively short distances between the venues, with the radius of the location of the stadiums being only 50 kilometres.
2000 cameras at each of the eight stadiums that are hosting the FIFA World Cup at Qatar 2022 plus a digitally created twin model at the centre are all sending information to the Aspire Command and Control centre, which allows close monitoring of every aspect of crowd movement.
“The centre is connected to all the eight world cup stadiums located in different parts of the country. From here we have capabilities to remotely manage a number of operational aspects in the stadium, specifically facility management, safety and security services, and IT support operations. This is the world’s first connected stadiums platform that has been implemented for a World Cup,” said Niyas Abdulrahiman, Chief Technology Officer at Aspire Academy.
From the core of the Aspire Command and Control Centre, entry gates to the stadiums can be operated, the running water can be operated, as well as the huge air conditioning system that keeps the temperature between 16 and 20 degrees Celsius in the stadium being monitored.
The data helps the engineers at the control centre to forecast crowd patterns, being able to predict crowd surges, with the help of the AI. They are being able to count the number of people in a certain space and apply a threshold. If a particular area gets too crowded, for example, the technicians can see bottlenecks, check how the entry gates are performing and ensure a smooth flow of people in and out of the stadium.
“With one click you can shift from one stadium to [another] stadium, because we have everything integrated through our centralised platform, in terms of facility management, security, health and safety, and ICT [information and communications technology] operations,” said Hamad Ahmed al-Mohannadi, the centre’s director, according to Qatari outlet Al Jazeera.
The connected stadiums’ platform allows management of audio and video, facility, safety and security, and even temperature control all from the control centre, which is located in the Doha Sports City complex, which also houses Hamad Aquatics centre, Aspire academy, and Khalifa Stadium.
The aim of the project is to prevent incidents such as the ones that took place in May, at the Stade de France, during the UEFA Champions League final between Real Madrid and Liverpool, when thousands of fans could not enter the stadium, the police used tear gas and pepper spray, while the game’s start was delayed.
Every room, corridor, approach road, and parking area of all eight stadiums is covered by nearly 16.000 CCTV cameras. There is no corner of the stadium that cannot be monitored by the Aspire Command and Control Centre. And they can watch all eight stadiums at the same time if needed.